Robert Gosstray, one of our most popular writers, passed away several weeks ago.
We want to acknowledge Rob’s work on Midlifexpress and will miss the wonderful stories about his career as a pharamicist.
Here is the eulogy written by Claire Bell and read at his funeral.
A Eulogy for Rob
Rob is a mythological figure from my childhood. In my early years, he was part Gandalf and part Obi Wan K’nobi. In my teenage years, he was The Bringer of Chinese Takeaway and a much-loved addition to our cheesy sci-fi Sunday matinee sessions. In my adult years, he embodied Alan Watts, the wise and deeply compassionate writer and philosopher we both loved.
In his Gandalf/ Obi-Wan incarnation, his greatest act of wizardry and Force magic occurred in 1968:
It is winter and my two siblings and I are staying with Aunty Lorna. It is early evening and shortly after Rob arrives home, he leads us on a mysterious expedition to the backyard where he has us collect small sticks. It is dark and cold and misty as we scurry about in the torchlight until we have each collected enough bounty to satisfy Rob. We head back to the kitchen where he fills a large pot with water, places it on the stove and deposits the twigs into its oceanic depths. He then brings this cauldron to the boil and firmly places a lid on top. He tells us something magical will happen. I watch this pot with the intensity a cat reserves for a mouse hole. (To this day, I swear I never took my eyes off that pot.)
Time passes in the dreamy way time passes when wizards are near. At some point, Rob appears beside the pot and extracts….not soggy, wilted, inedible twigs, but steaming, hot, lustrous liquorice. Handfuls of it. I am speechless. How can this be? I implore him to tell us. “It’s a secret”, he says.
The Omega Man
It is 1975 and Rob is still a legend. He is one of those rare adults with whom kids feel completely comfortable. He is one of us. During my early teens, he visits our house about once a month with Chinese takeaway and the patience to sit with us while we watch woeful sci-fi movies.
Our favourite is The Omega Man. It has everything: Charlton Heston at his most messianic; religious fundamentalist zombies with an ex-tv-host cult leader (not kidding); a deadly plague, and a motley gang of desperate human survivors. And it is Charlton, of course, who saves humanity as he patrols the zombie-infested streets in his red convertible Ford LTD, armed to the teeth with sub-machine guns and a smarmy smile.
In the ensuing years, Charlton morphs into a hero Rob and I can totally get behind. He embodies all that is brave, and strong and cinematically ridiculous. We shorten his name to Charlie and end all our texts and emails with “Hail Charlie!”.
By 2014, Rob is a writing megastar.
Rob gets most of the questions. Rob can write. And I mean really write. His book is called The Pharmacist’s Secrets and if you haven’t read it, then you should. It is brilliant. His words have wit and weight and substance. The book is quintessentially Rob, full of knowledge and insight and vitriolic swipes at Big Pharma that are as well-deserved as they are accurate.
In my eyes, Rob was many things: part wizard, part sage, and part gifted writer. He was also a man of immense compassion, wisdom, and humor.
I don’t have a clue what happens after death. But sometimes the wisest words come not from gurus and spiritual teachers, but from the people you least expect.
When TV talk show host Steven Colbert once asked Keanu Reeves:
“What do you think happens when we die, Keanu Reeves?” Keanu thought for a moment and replied:
“I know that the ones who love us will miss us”.
And to that I know Rob would say: “Hail Charlie!